[MARMAM] New Publication: Multiple harmful algal toxin exposure in Indian River Lagoon dolphins, 2002-2011

Spencer Fire sfire at fit.edu
Mon Nov 25 06:51:59 PST 2019

My coauthors and I are pleased to announce the following paper in Aquatic Toxicology:

Fire SE, Browning JA, Durden WN, Stolen MK (2019).  Comparison of during-bloom and inter-bloom brevetoxin and saxitoxin concentrations in Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphins, 2002-2011. Aquatic Toxicology 105371.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquatox.2019.105371


Harmful algal bloom (HAB) toxins have severe negative impacts on marine mammals, particularly for Florida bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) which frequently experience mass mortality events. Dolphins on the Florida Atlantic coast inhabit a region endemic to two HAB species, Karenia brevis and Pyrodinium bahamense, which produce the neurotoxins brevetoxin (PbTx) and saxitoxin (STX), respectively. Although toxic HABs and associated dolphin mortality events have been reported from this region, there is a lack of available data necessary for comparing toxin exposure levels between bloom (‘exposed’) conditions and non-bloom (‘baseline’) conditions. Here we present a 10-year dataset of PbTx and STX concentrations detected in dolphins stranding in this region, and compare the toxin loads from HAB-exposed dolphins to those detected in dolphins recovered in the absence of a HAB. We analyzed liver tissue samples from dead-stranded dolphins (n = 119) recovered and necropsied between 2002–2011, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) modified for use with mammalian tissues. For dolphins recovered during baseline conditions, toxin-positive samples ranged in concentration from 0.27-1.2 ng/g for PbTx and from 0.41-1.9 ng/g for STX. For K. brevis-exposed dolphins, concentrations of up to 12.1 ng PbTx/g were detected, and for P. bahamense-exposed dolphins, concentrations of up to 9.9 ng STX/g were detected. Baseline PbTx values were similar to those reported in other regions where K. brevis blooms are more frequent and severe, but HAB-exposed PbTx values were considerably lower relative to these other regions. Since no baseline STX dolphin data exist for any region, our data serve as a first step towards establishing reference STX values for potential dolphin mortality events associated with STX-producing blooms in the future. This study demonstrates that although HABs in eastern Florida are only infrequently associated with dolphin mortalities, the presence of toxins in these animals may pose significant health risks in this region.
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